Hostel II

| June 11, 2007

I’m not an idiot. In fact, I like to think that I’m a reasonably intelligent person. I understand that my job as a reviewer is to offer my opinion. After that, it’s all out of my hands. Maybe a few of you out there will choose to see or not to see a film based on my opinion. But most of you won’t. Most of you could care less what I think about a film and are going to watch whatever you damn well please. And that’s your right. I don’t begrudge you the independent thought to make your own entertainment choices. I may not agree with some of those choices when I check the box office numbers on Monday. I may complain and beat my head against the wall when a piece of cinematic garbage like Epic Movie opens to big numbers. But it’s your choice and there’s nothing I can do to change your minds. I accept that fact, but occasionally I see a film that makes me want to do something to make a difference. Something other than writing a pitiful little review. Therefore, in lieu of a traditional review of Hostel: Part II, I have decided to use my tiny soapbox to post an open letter to the man behind the film, Eli Roth.

Dear Eli,
Before I get to the purpose of this letter, I want to tell you a little about myself. I’m not an uptight film critic that automatically hates anything that is given the horror label. Quite to the contrary, I love the genre. I have framed posters on my wall from all of the Evil Dead films. I think the original Dawn of the Dead is one of the five best films I’ve ever seen. I worship Ramsey Campbell for being the best writer that nobody on this side of the Atlantic has ever heard of. I even subscribe to Fangoria, for the love of God!
And so far, I’ve been a fan of your films.
While Cabin Fever gradually became just a little too silly for my tastes, I appreciated that you tried to do something different with the traditional college kids in a secluded cabin scenario. I marked you down as a horror director to watch. You didn’t disappoint with the first Hostel. While I felt there was room for improvement, I appreciated the fact that you didn’t try to turn the horrific torture and violence into a joke. It was insane, frightening and didn’t play fair with audience expectations. In fact, the DVD of it sits on my shelf. I can see it from where I sit, sandwiched between Basket Case and Re-Animator. A place of honor if ever there was one. So you can understand that it was with quite a bit of anticipation that I looked forward to the release of its sequel. And now that I’ve seen it, I have just one thing to say.
Please stop.
I honestly expected you to try something different with a sequel, something fresh and original. What you delivered was a tired retread of not only the first Hostel but also over-used clichés from other horror films: Open the sequel with bad expositional dialogue to explain what happened in the first film? Check. Unnecessary prologue that kills off the only surviving character from the first film? Check. Badly written scare scene that turns out to be a nightmare? Check. And down the list you went, running every lazy horror movie tactic out to chew up a little more running time until the abrupt and unsatisfying ending.
So, why did you do it? Being a horror geek, I came across several of your interviews in promotion of the release. You talked a lot about the desire to get a sequel out in the theaters before the copycats started. I can understand that concern. I also understand that you’re still very much a new kid on the block as far as Hollywood is concerned. I get that you wanted to capitalize on the success of the first Hostel. Audiences and studio heads are fickle and I’m sure you felt an immense amount of pressure to deliver a sequel that cashed in on your current popularity. Did you rush into production with a script that wasn’t finished? It certainly felt like it as I watched the images bleed across the screen, the story barely coherent and quite frankly, boring. Why else would you trot out the exact same story as the first one, changing only the gender of the three protagonists? I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming it was pressure to quickly deliver a sequel and not just lazy storytelling on your part.
I’ll admit that you managed to get a chuckle out of me with the casting of Ruggero Deodato as a cannibal. And you did manage to further push the envelope with some of the onscreen violence, managing to shock even me with a few grisly moments. But that’s all it was, brief shock before the gratingly annoying characters continued on their path to doom. Never once did you pull me into the film to care about the fate of any of the characters. Without any kind of emotional attachment, your grotesque images pack the punch of a feather pillow.
I know we’ve never met, but I like to think I can spot an insincere person from a mile away. The enthusiasm with which you approach the horror genre is refreshing and genuine. It makes me automatically like you and root for you to succeed. It’s only out of a hope that I can make you see the error of your ways that I write this letter. I’m not asking you to stop making films. Far from it. I’m asking you to walk away from the Hostel franchise while you still have some dignity. I still believe you have the opportunity to be an important filmmaker in the horror community and I eagerly await your adaptation of Stephen King’s Cell.
I have no doubt that Hostel: Part II will be a financial success, so it’s probably only going to be a matter of a few weeks or even days before the offer for Hostel: Part III comes your way. Please don’t do it. I’d hate to see you get bogged down in another situation where you deliver a disappointing film that insults (yes, I mean that) the horror community that has trusted you and recognized you as one of their own.
Matt Wedge

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